When presented with a broom I immediately resist any urge to sweep or clean. To me, brooms are strictly for riding. Is it any wonder Halloween is my favorite holiday? Here in Armenia it is the duty of every Peace Corpse Volunteerie (see what I did there?) to spend the month of October scaring the Bejasus out of every ghost-fearing Armenian (roughly 2.5 million at the last census). It is part of our job, for Goal Two of the Peace Corps mission is to help promote a better understanding of Americans on behalf of the peoples served. In an age when so much American activity defies explanation -and is truly scary– the wise PCV will confine herself to stories of Charlie Brown and the Pumpkin Patch, and to introducing Armenians young and old to all sorts of witchy wheezes and ghostly goings on. But what to do when there is no chainsaw to hand, and when pumpkins are small and in scant supply?
Here are my own October activities which I hope will inspire your Halloween celebrations in and out of Peace Corps.
Pin the Wart on the Witch. You will need a piece of flip chart paper, a marker pen, a dish towel, a pair of opaque tights or similar to use as a blindfold, and a raisin squished on a thumb tack. Draw a large witch astride a broomstick on the paper and be sure to give her a large, black, hairy wart on her nose, using the marker pen. Find some children and blindfold the first of them. Birl the child three times until disorientated and hand over the raisin on the thumb tack.
Ask the child to pin the wart on the witch. Mark the pin prick with the child’s initials and move on to the next. The pin prick closest to the real wart wins the child a treat.
TP Tutenkhamen: buy several rolls of cheap toilet paper. Show the children a picture of an Egyptian mummy or a scary movie clip where mummies walk the earth. Put the kids in threes equipped with a roll of TP. Set a time limit. Challenge the teams to wrap one member as mummy. Then have a walking dead race with treats for the winning team.
Frightful Face masks. If you have environmental concerns about the waste of TP, use it to make face masks. You will need several balloons (blown up), flour and water paste,markers for decorating and some elastic bands, plus of course the toilet paper. Paste squares of TP over one side of the balloon until you have 3-5 layers. Leave to dry overnight. Use a knitting needle or similar both to pop the balloon and to put holes for the elastic about a third of the way down the side of the face mask. Thread the elastic band and tie a knot at each end to keep it in place. Have the kids use markers to draw scary faces on the masks– a light touch is needed. You may want to cut eyeholes in the masks to aid the claustrophobic. Wear the masks and run around howling and screaming.
Dead Man’s Guts. Prepare a bowl of spaghetti and leave to cool. Cut an orange in half at the equator (not pole to pole). Blindfold the children and keep the lights low. Tell the children a scary story about a school director who died a terrible death in the very room you are working in. Make sure to include the detail that her eyes were cut out and be sure to find the Armenian word for disemboweled. Then ask each child to come up to pay their respects to the body of the long dead Director. Guide each child’s hand to the cold spaghetti-the guts of the ghostly creature. Then to the orange half– the slimy eye socket of the spectre. Much screaming ensues.
What the Blank Blank Blank!!! If you must have something educational, create some frightening flash cards with suitably scary adjectives, nouns and verbs: slimy, scary, half-dead, headless, rat, frog, bat, witch, spider, ghost, corpse, mummy, eats, scares, kisses, follows, kills. Then ask the class to complete the sentence
The Blank Blank Blanks the Blank Blank
Irish Apple Pie. If you must involve autumn fruit in your Halloween celebrations and don’t want to bob for apples or eat them off strings dangling from a washing line, then assemble the ingredients for an apple pie and add a coin wrapped in foil or greaseproof paper, a curtain ring, a thimble and perhaps a bean, similarly wrapped.Bake these into the pie. Slice the pie and share among the children, warning them to look for the charms. The one who gets the coin will be rich. the one to gets the ring will be first married. The luckless recipient of the thimble will always work hard, and she who gets the bean will never go hungry. Happy Halloween.